Ragnarok 2016... first 1/4 of my season thoughts

Last year I didn't sign up for the Ragnarok.  I can't really tell you why.  This race means a lot to me.  My family has been in the area this course goes through for over a century and most of them still do live in Red Wing.  That aside, any of the original gravel races from the "almanzo gravel series"...  well, they are what got me interested in bike racing.  I rode them when it was a challenge to finish, when it was a challenge to try to compete, when it was a challenge just to survive (the year of the rain/cold).  It's still a huge challenge, but I came to the ragnarok this year to try to win.

I think I've had good legs all spring.  No wins, but all close misses since fatbike season.

CIRREM is a great first race of the year.  It was very fast this year with beautiful weather.  I may have had an advantage to press with 4 or 5 miles to go, but tried to play it safe and got beat in a mis-timed sprint effort.  I left feeling pretty good about the day, but frustrated with 3rd.  I've done CIRREM a ton of times now and am piling up the top 5s with no wins there.  Maybe it's better that way with it being so early, but someday I would like to win!

Testing the legs a bit at CIRREM

I then did a couple of Iowa mixed road races.  I was third in Hills and won a bunch sprint.  Fresh legs right to the end, but no strategic way to use them other than what I did.  Still a great training ride and fun.  It was good to see my friend Jason win and I was happy that one of us not from the local team, with 7 guys in the race, was able to take it.  The Crushed Rock Classic was a new event this year.  Fun course with a mixture of gravel, a bit of road and some CX style grass/mud even.  I was strong but tentative and wound up second.

This was a pretty ridiculous chase group that formed in the Crushed Rock Classic

On to the Ragnarok and the first 'goal' race of the year.  I had an idea of how the race would likely unfold going into it.  The first 85 miles are all about conserving energy and then a group of 2-4 would likely form over the top of Heath's Hill which would break up further over the second to last climb OR come down to a sprint on the final ramp.  I am racing a bit heavier these days (Dad bod?) and knew that a sprint up that final ramp was not for me.  Anyone who would be able to stay with me to that point was likely to beat me on that pitch!

Conserving energy early

This is a great shot of what the Ragnarok is all about!

The pace early was pretty ridiculous.  I wasn't in danger of being dropped until we got to the largest hills around mile 55, but I sure wanted to ride slower!  I was expecting a bit more gentlemanly pace and a chance to pee and remove my jacket.  Next time I won't wear a skinsuit under a wool jersey and will NOT start in a jacket.  The combination meant no rolling pee and little access to any food, which was compounded by frozen bottles.  In the end I wound up only consuming about 250 calories and 40 oz of water throughout the entire race.  Thankfully my wife was at checkpoint two though!  I only got one big sip of cranberry/cherry soda and a wish of good luck! but that helped me immensely on the last 25 miles.

The group dropped me on the large back to back hills, but I kept the gap reasonable and essentially coasted back on going downhill.  Jesse had flatted on that same climb.  When I caught back on the group really slowed and we finally did tentatively stop and pee.  This let me safely get my jacket off, let Jesse back on and probably really influenced the outcome of the race.  From that point on I felt the momentum shifting and was no longer hanging on.

Heath's Hill comes up at mile 85 or so.  I still had it fresh in my mind getting dropped on the large hills earlier and reflexively went to the front and started riding my own tempo.  I had to be sure to be in contact over the top.  It's a technical climb that takes about 8 minutes from top to bottom.  Throughout you have to look ahead and pick good lines while also putting down decent power.  Things started getting quieter and quieter.  The silence started to feed my desire to push a little harder and in turn it got quieter.  I wasn't able to match my own KOM time on the climb, but I did put between 20 seconds and 2 minutes on the remainder of the group.  After the quick pavement descent the course turns downwind and begins a much longer/gradual climb (perhaps a better launch pad for an attack from someone with my skills).  I was caught by Jesse and Sam E. as we turned onto that gradual climb.  I was Ok with that thinking that the 3 of us would be able to put time into the others and that was better than the big group had been.  However, it became apparent that neither of them were in a condition to make any pulls.  I slipped away as it started to go up and rode tempo the remaining 15 miles in!

It felt really good not to have to sprint on that final ramp.

I'm sure Jesse had used up a lot of his energy chasing on after the flat.  It would have been interesting to see how much more I had in the tank had I been pushed late.  I've been riding all week, but I'm STILL tired from the effort, no doubt.

LML has been moved to this weekend due to bad weather 3 weeks ago.  I think that maybe took a little bit of the luster off of it.  After all, Ragnarok was the "goal" in this early part of the year, but LML was supposed to set up as an important tune-up.  Now it's the beginning of the next chapter which ends with Almanzo.  Meanwhile, the crit season has also started.  Gravel and crits complement each other better than most realize if you ask me.


Barn Hockey Rink

We have a structurally sound, but sort of useless barn on our property.  It's not a proper "barn" the way most picture barn architecture but more of an early "pole shed", at least in architectural style, made from wood.  When we moved in it didn't even have a large enough door to put a trailer or store a boat in it or anything.  We put a huge sliding door on the far end last year and I built a large dog indoor/outdoor dog kennel down there as well.  Anyways, most of it has just been storage for us.  A lot more storage than we really needed.  It was a pretty big mess.  Here is a photo of it from down near the dog kennel.

It was built in 1950 and originally had a series of pens for chickens in it.

I got it into my head that we should turn it into a hockey rink for the winter.  The issue with having ice in a yard or whatever is always maintaining it, right?  But if we did it in the barn it wouldn't snow on it!  Plus it would be protected from the wind etc. etc.

What you really can't see there is just how much of a pain it was to level the fllor out with a shovel and rake.  We had planned to have someone dump gravel in the future and to bring in a skid steer at that point.  I was in a hurry and did it by hand (in about 6 hours).  The frame is 4" sewer and drain pvc.

The liner is just two layers of the thickest plastic we could find at Fleet Farm.

I added about half the water first then let it freeze.  I've since added a few thinner layers on the top after filling it all the way.  It's about 3" deep at the close end and 6" at the other.

I wired up some speakers and christmas lights and we've been out there about twice a week since.

Here is a quick video of Riley at just over 3 years old.  This was the second time she ever skated by herself (with her walker).  The first try was about 1 minute previous.  Prior to this I've carried her around a lot letting her get used to how the ice feels under her feet.  She likes to ride on her little slide while I push it around the ice and plays hockey from her knees with a cut down stick. 

The slide which shows the rink a little bit better too-

And another after a couple more practice attempts (still on her first night of standing alone)-


2016 Untitled

Facebook sent me a bunch of posts I'd made "on this day" in the past.  I've had a lot of fun on January 31st!  The Untitled ride was always great, when it happened.  Of course, it kind of died out because two years ago it was -15 or whatever and no one can really ride 5 or 6 hours safely in those temperatures (or is going to drive just to do so with me).

Anyways, this weekend I was supposed to race in a one hour fatbike race (cx style laps/bell) on Saturday and then go to the bike swap.  I wound up staying home both days and riding 4 hours each day.  Three days this week I was lucky enough to ride for a while, sit down and eat lunch, ride home.  I guess that was my version of the untitled.

Soon here I'll have a newborn at home and I may not get to do that as much for a while.  I still hope to race quite a bit this spring though.  We will see, I guess.


Snow Crush Fatbke Race

I had planned to start my season in the middle of December.  Might have had a lot of miles on by now too.  However, the same sinus infection that took me out of Jinglecross took me out all the way into early January.  I did have a mediocre day at the Solstice Chase but went totally back in the hole after that.  Since getting on antibiotics early in January I've felt much better.  Thankfully, too, because I had a great trip to Colorado last week skiing!

Anyways, that meant I pulled the plug on the Triple D and was free to race the Snow Crush on what little training I have in my legs.  More or less that consisted of the ride where I took this picture two weeks ago!

The Snow Crush was a lot of fun.  The course was firm and fast and the River Bend Nature Center is always scenic.  It was also a great place for Riley to hang out and check out the animals etc.. pre and post race.

The paper always gets things just a bit wrong...  but yeah, I was really hot at the end!  The Almanzo is a lot of fun (although, the Dickie is my event).  The PWC appears to be dead moving forward (disappointing to me because I love that type of racing...  riding a tight rope!).  Oh, and I did win.

It was very windy and with such cold/firm temperatures it was not very technical.  Riding skill wasn't going to be what separated the fastest people on the front in those conditions.  In the end it came down to 'road' type tactics.  I knew I didn't have too much in my legs fairly early on, but was also able to get into the ideal position in second wheel.  On the first lap I was worried Dustin Gaffke was going to just ride me off his wheel and take off, but with each hill it was easier to hang on.  I'm sure the wind was wearing him out some.  He certainly had an opportunity to drop me early.  By the last lap I had an idea of how the race would go down.  It was a challenge not to attack too early.  In fact, I did try to attack too early on the one technical descent but my gap was short lived.  That served to put me on the front of a group of three though heading to the finish.  Not the worst place to be considering how I expected things to shake out.  Patience would be the key.

There was a relatively long hill with about 600 meters to go with a false flat.  I knew things would go off on the way up.  Both riders came off my wheel and opened up decent gaps on me on the main pitch.  I was able to stay patient though, do my own thing and then run them down on the false flats before the final descent/sprint to the finish.  Results are here.

After the Solstice Chase I was sort of excited about fatbike racing this year.  The combination of the sinus infection and my second daughter being due in about 2 weeks now will mean that I may be done after just these two races.  Maybe next year!

Yeah, I wore a ski helmet and goggles.  GOGGLES.


crank brothers vs. shimano

This year at the Dickie Scramble I broke a pedal while off the front trying to hold off a charging Ted Loosen.  I was able to ride the last 8 or 9 miles in but it certainly slowed me down a bit.  I had been using crank brothers quattro pedals on all my bikes for years.  Being able to use either mountain or road shoes with the same pedals was always very appealing.  Crank Brothers' reliability had always concerned me slightly, but since switching to the high end quattros and following a consistent rebuild schedule I had experienced no issues for about 3 years.   The quattros had helped the reliability because the platform meant that I was not compressing the spring with each pedal stroke (I'd worn out springs on several sets of egg beaters in a hurry).  

When I broke another pedal on mile 25 or so of a group ride the Monday after the Almanzo 100 I knew I had to switch.

Shimano was the clear choice for me.  To put it simply thee more I ride the more Shimano parts I use.  The appeal of slightly flashier/lighter/cheaper/whatever equipment just no longer is there. 

I had a much harder time switching to the road pedals (7900 dura ace) than I'd like to admit.  Maybe I should have switched over slowly, only using them on group rides initially, but bad starts (and restarts after free laps) in the northstar crits were actually a big enough issue for me to influence the outcome of the races.  I'm still not 100% proficient.  

On the mtb/cx front the switch went a bit better.  I went with the 540s and got them right before the week long touring trip I took to the U.P..  Initially I rode them with the tension all the way loose which I found replicated the feel of clipping into the CB pedals very well.  I noticed the longer spindles, but it was never something that bothered me on that trip (60+ hours on my bike in 8 days).  Anyways, after that trip I was fairly confident in being able to clip into the pedals.  I still am not quite as fast as I used to be though.  I think my starts suffered a little bit until well into November.  Dismounts are not an "issue" but the pedals do not allow me to walk my left foot out leading into barriers as easily as with the other pedals and I've had to change my technique some.  I have been pleasantly surprised by how well they work/clear mud.  If anything my experience this year was that mud performance was improved vs. the crank brothers.

In the end I'm not looking back.  


The Keweenaw

I made 8 trips this year. Two trips all the way to Copper Harbor by car and one by bike.  It's becoming a tradition for me to ride up there from home.

At this point we are even looking at houses!


I won the 2015 Almanzo 100

This has been a blog post that has kept me from writing blog posts for a while.  The title says it all, but it wasn't easy to say or accept. Those who follow my blog know what that means to me.  It's hard to say it because of the luck I needed luck to make it happen.  I've come to terms with it now.  Perhaps two years in a row of inopportune flats in the same race meant I was "owed".  Maybe it's more likely that if you just keep trying long enough eventually something works out.  Maybe it makes no difference whatsoever.  At this point it's simpler than that stuff.  I simply rode my best race and the results were the results.  The luck aspect of it is nothing to me anymore but that doesn't mean I don't desperately want to back it up next spring.

I was beat at mile 65.  A long series of hills after the checkpoint saw the field literally exploding.  I had worked to create that explosion but by the end of the steepest of those hills it was clear that 4 riders had a little bit more climbing ability than I did right then.  Beat or not I absolutely put out everything I had between there and the line.  A group formed behind me but they were soon out of sight and forgotten.  Eventually, I would catch those 4 riders 25 miles later only to be dropped again on Oriole.  Then I would find myself ahead of them.  I don't know how far they went the wrong way.  I know that when they came back into sight behind me and I realized that I was leading that it was not something I would relinquish.    By the end the gap was very small.  I don't know if I could have done it had the line been any further way.  As it was I was taking things in small pieces the way you do when climbing a mountain pass.  The pavement is only 1 more mile....  the next turn is right there...  get to the bike path, you can't be beat if you make it to the bike path...

I doubt I'll ever finish another race and be immediately interviewed by a television camera!

Miscellaneous Spring Stuff

The week before Lakeville Milltown Lakeville I got to go up to Lutsen and watch the spring series ski race.  I snuck over to Moose Mountain on my fatbike and rode all over the place on the down low.  It was pretty amazing bombing giant slalom turns all over the closed runs (closed to to limited snow cover so late in the season) and riding on the river through the golf course.  This was just a ride, but something I had a great time doing!

Lakeville Milltown Lakeville itself was a great day too.  Not much happened early in the race, but leaving the checkpoint a small group formed that Skarpohl drove and drove.  I made a few pulls too to help keep some of our competitors out of the group, but soon regretted doing that.  In the end Skarpohl and I went in the last 25 or 30 miles as a due.  I think he kept me around so he would have someone to torture but then felt bad and let me stay with him all the way to the end and ultimately beat him in the sprint.  I've now won that race 2 of the 3 runnings.  All 3 years I've been unbelievably tired for 2 or 3 days after this thing.

I skipped Ragnarok.  I don't know why.  I want to do it next year.  I guess I felt like LML, Ragnarok, Dickie Scramble and Almanzo was just 1 too many long/early races.  Maybe I was right, but I'll never really know.

A huge benefit of not working evenings was being able to make the trip up to the Twin Cities on Tuesday nights.  The Tuesday night points races and crits became a big part of my spring this year.  I had moved up from being a 5 all the way to a 2 on the road without doing more than 10 or 12 total crits.  Obviously, that was too fast to be really comfortable/good and I wanted to work on that so  one of my goals this year was to 'learn' how to race crits a little bit.

I wound up racing every Tuesday available and a solid handful of weekend events.  I was proud to finish 6th in the MN Memorial Classsic race at the Fairgrounds (where I'm sure I had a relative advantage due to familiarity).  I was also consistently in the top 10 or so in the Tuesday races which meant a lot to me due to the nature of dealing with my health/food stuff.  10+ weeks of being "ready to go" on Tuesday night was something easy to get excited about!  My season would eventually fizzle out as the temperature and humidity soared into late June/July but not before I nearly stole the Wisconsin Cat 2 State Championships with a long move, but fell to 4th near the line.

Pugsley World Championships ;) 2015

As part of an attempt to somewhat catch up this blog with the current I'm going to hit on a few things I did this year with posts.

The PWC event down in Decorah was really just about a month after I stopped doing the Mayo job and began working just for myself.  I had taken a lot of time off after having health issues once again during the CX season (I'm still doing a lot of learning even now pertaining to my diet and health).  Then starting early February I started putting in a ton of miles at Gamehaven on the fatbike.  Not exactly as preparation for anything, but because it was nice to stay out of the wind and tons of fun.  By early March I had spent a lot of hours on snow, many of them trying to keep up with Trevor, and was as ready for a fatbike race as I have ever been.

The event itself was freaking great.  The course was tough with much of it being just barely rideable.  98% of the course was singletrack and there really were no punches pulled so far as anything that would make it easy.  The race consisted essentially of 4 loops with the last 2 being laps of the same sections.  After everyone had ridden/hiked/crashed the first time around it was absolute mayhem just staying upright.  The "fatbike birkie" took place the same day, whatever.  I would love to see that same field on a course like this (irony coming from someone many consider to be a roadie... eh?)

So far as the race itself went-  I was able to jump out to an early lead and stay away throughout.  It was always close, but I was able to find a bit more each time it tightened up etc..

Our next stop was Iowa City for one of the Iowa Spring Classic road races Sunday.  I had a decent day there and was able to get third.  What stands out in my memory though was literally putting my foot down in the sprint for 2nd.  I really left everything out there between the two days that weekend.




new beginning/taking advice from the onion

ROCHESTER, MN—In an effort to help working individuals improve their fitness and well-being, experts at the Mayo Clinic issued a new set of health guidelines Thursday recommending that Americans stand up at their desk, leave their office, and never return. “Many Americans spend a minimum of eight hours per day sitting in an office, but we observed significant physical and mental health benefits in subjects after just one instance of standing up, walking out the door, and never coming back to their place of work again,” said researcher Claudine Sparks, who explained that those who implemented the practice in their lives reported an improvement in mood and reduced stress that lasted for the remainder of the day, and which appeared to persist even into subsequent weeks. “We encourage Americans to experiment with stretching their legs by strolling across their office and leaving all their responsibilities behind forever just one time to see how much better they feel. People tend to become more productive, motivated, and happy almost immediately. We found that you can also really get the blood flowing by pairing this activity with hurling your staff ID across the parking lot.” Sparks added that Americans could maximize positive effects by using their lunch break to walk until nothing looks familiar anymore and your old life is a distant memory.

-Verbatim from the Onion (original article can be found here)

Tonight is my last full night at the Mayo Clinic.  I've fallen off on blogging recently as things have just gotten out of control time wise but that does not diminish the importance this blog has had in my life, or at least the things for which it serves as a record.  When I started blogging I had just begun to ride.  I was looking for something and had no clue what it was.  Over the years cycling has already taken me so many places.


and here

and no where

 I started repairing carbon fiber parts nearly 4 years ago now.  I've been lucky enough to be able to carve out enough of a niche doing so that I am feeling great about making the leap.

I certainly never expected to work in the bike industry.  Frankly, I still don't feel like I do, even if it has been paying a decent chunk of the bills for a while.  I always had an idea what the bike industry was like and if you've followed my blog for long you know I never really liked it.  Maybe I was always wrong.  There are certainly still things going on that I don't like to see on a very macro level, but on an individual level people are seriously awesome.  It's impossible not to be grateful for that.

There are a lot of things I hope to have more time to do and tons of things I hope to be able to give my wife more time to do.  And although 40 hours a week seems like a lot of time but I'm sure it will go fast.  Totally stoked about attending group rides, the local Tuesday night bar ride, Tuesday night races in the Twin Cities etc. etc..  I'll be getting to spend a lot more time with this little person too.  Tired of having to tell her I'm going to work.  She always responds with "Daddy works hard".


Gravel Conspiracy 2014/Health

I have no pictures.  Almost not worth putting anything up with zero pictures.  Have to post something if only to tell you that you should do this event next year.  Seriously.

This was a bit different thing for me than the last couple of years.  Lots of endurance riding over the summer and these stages were looking a bit less like tests of endurance and more like tests of speed.  After studying the routes I had a good idea of my time goals/pace for each stage.  Keeping up with those timelines became a major battle with the persistent headwind over the weekend.  The only one I really 'missed' was day 1 because of a road that didn't really exist where I stopped, looked around and left a huge 'tree arrow' to help others.  The stages took me 3:48 (with approximately 20 minutes of screwing around), 6:50 and 2:58.  So, a handful of minutes faster than what my pretty aggressive goal times were (3:30, 7, 3).  Feel great about that.

I'm going to race this weekend for the first time since before the Almanzo.  Could have virtually any fitness level and a couple of CX races will certainly expose whatever that level might be.

My health continues to be less of a problem.  I still have some days where I think I've gotten it wrong, but if I stick to the foods which I know are OK things seem all positive.  I have lost 12 lbs since March primarily on mexican, BBQ, thai, steak and french fries.  CX requires a lot of power at times, but also has many punchy accelerations and climbs.  Who knows!  Regardless, I'm looking forward to having fun this fall.  Hopefully building momentum which will allow me to train much more again next year and build on the base I redeveloped over the summer while not racing.


Home to Copper Harbor

Folks were going to be at Copper Harbor for singlespeed USA.  I figured if I took Friday off and left early I would be able to ride there before noon on Sunday (11 am Eastern) then hop a ride back.